A new scientific study claims that human urine can be converted into brain cells. And the surprising discovery may extend beyond practical applications, allowing a way to circumvent the controversial debate over stem cell research.
The study, published online in Nature Methods and conducted by a team led by Chinese stem-cell biologist Duanqing Pei, found that cells generated from human waste might someday be used to study disease and even in therapeutic treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.
Plus, there's a potential added bonus to the discovery: Embryonic stem cells possess a high risk of developing tumors, which reportedly would not be an issue with cells taken from the urine samples.
The process works by transforming cells present in the urine into precursors of brain cells, known as neural progenitor cells. The study says the cells found in urine are a "much more accessible source" than cells found in skin and blood samples.
"This could definitely speed things up," James Ellis, a medical geneticist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children in Ontario, Canada, told Nature.